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Friday, August 31

Cave on Mars

A recent picture from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE camera has revealed details inside a cave (or pothole as I would call it) on Mars. The cave was revealed in previously released images HiRISE images when the camera was looking straight down. Nothing more that a black hole with no discernible features was seen.

Image Credit: NASA / JPL / U. Arizona

This latest image was taken from an angle and shows one wall of the pit illuminated by sunlight. This provides some details on the cave which is approximately 150m in diameter. For more on this try Emily Lakdawalla's post on the Planetary Society Blog.

August Meeting Report

Just a small group gathered for our August meeting. We covered the latest news from Mars with Chris giving a round up of all the current Mars missions and a look forward to future missions. Including details of NASA's Mars Phoenix mission currently on it's way to the red planet.

Following the refreshments break there was time for a quick news round up including a look at the latest astronomy features of Google Earth, known as Google Sky.

Our next meeting is on Tuesday 25th September. Also look out for details of our observing events which will restart soon, now that the nights are drawing in . . .

Monday, August 27

August Meeting

Don't forget we are having a meeting this month, tomorrow night usual time and place. The subject will be an update on the various Mars exploration missions currently at Mars and planned for the future.

There will also be the usual news round up and plenty of opportunity (excuse the Mars pun!) for discussion.

See you there.


Wednesday, August 15

Just a fantastic picture . . . .

I make no apologies for stealing this post from Stuart over at Cumbrian Sky, so some of you may already have seen it. But just in case . . .

Image Credit: NASA

There's not much I can add except thanks to Stuart for pointing it out, and US tax payers for paying for it !

Full resolution version available here (3MB download!)

Sunday, August 12

Amateur Telescope Making on a Grand Scale !

If you are thinking of building your own telescope then a Dobsonian design is a popular choice, though not usually quite as large as this monster built by Dr. Erhard Hänssgen in 2002. With a 42 inch diameter mirror, it is thought to be the largest portable telescope in the world (The secondary is as big as the main mirror in my telescope!). It may not hold the title for much longer though as there is an even bigger one under construction!

Saturday, August 11

Heads Up for the Perseids

The dark skies are back and I hope you managed to make good use of the of the odd clear night this week. Sunday night is the expected peak time to catch the Perseid meteors but there have been a few around already and you will probably see a few any evening over the next week or so. The picture is of a bright one I was lucky to catch in my wide field spectrograph a couple of years back. What ever happened to those balmy summer evenings.... sigh...

Friday, August 10

See the shuttle from a different angle

I found this new photo application a couple of weeks ago and was impressed by it. However it wasn't really astronomy related.

Now it is . . .

I'm talking about Microsoft's demonstration technology called Photosynth, which allows a collection of related 2D images (simple digital camera images) to be mapped to a 3D model. This allows you to select different viewpoints of a scene as well as zoom in and out and up and down etc. It really rather impressive (on a broadband connection as least!). Anyway the latest examples are definitely worth checking out; the shuttle Endeavour on the launchpad and inside the Vehicle Assembly Building.

Anyway I think it's a pretty amazing concept, and I'm sure you could think of lots of practical uses for it. In the mean time just enjoy the tours.

If you want some more info on how this works check out this video and others like it on youtube.

Tuesday, August 7

STS 118 prepares for launch

The next shuttle mission, STS 118 is preparing for launch tomorrow. The mission involves further construction work on the International Space Station, including the delivery and installation of a third truss. However, most importantly the mission will be the first space flight for astronaut and teacher Barbara Morgan who was the back-up for Christa McAuliffe who was tragically killed in the Challenger disaster 2o years ago.

Although originally selected as part of the "Teacher in Space" programme which was cancelled after the Challenger disaster, Morgan was eventually selected for full astronaut training in 1998 and is now a "fully fledged" astronaut.

Image Credit: NASA

More details on the mission on the NASA mission site. Endeavour is due to launch on Wednesday 8th August at around 23:36 BST.

Massive galaxies collide

Fraser Cain over at Universe Today has a story on the merger of four galaxies to form one of the universe's largest galaxies. There also more on the story on the BBC News site and in the original NASA press release.
Artist impression of 4 galaxies merging. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA

Galaxies aren't born, they evolve, getting built up through a succession of mergers over billions of years. In most cases, this process is slow and steady, with galaxies tearing apart their satellite neighbours and gaining mass. But in one cosmic collision seen by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, 4 extremely massive galaxies are coming together at the same time in a cosmic pileup.

"Most of the galaxy mergers we already knew about are like compact cars crashing together," said Kenneth Rines of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass. "What we have here is like four sand trucks smashing together, flinging sand everywhere."

blog it

Saturday, August 4

Phoenix is on its way to Mars

NASA's Phoenix probe successfully launched today and is on its way to Mars. It's due to arrive in May 2008 and will undertake analysis of the polar region of Mars, the first probe to do so. There;s plenty of information on the mission around on the web including this excellent taster video on youtube.

[If you're reading the email CAS News you'll have to follow the link above or go to the CAS News blog to see the embedded video].

Also this video includes more details of the mission and of course there's plenty of details on the mission website and also the Planetary Society website.

Thursday, August 2

Mars Rover Update

By now you've probably heard that the Mars rovers Opportunity and Spirit are suffering due to a massive dust storm on Mars. The image below shows just how much the light has dimmed over a period of just a few Sols.

If you want to find out much more about this story and what the rovers have been up to over the last month check out this comprehensive report on the Planetary Society Website.

Meeting Report - July 2007

We tried a new concept for our July meeting; projects meeting. Basically this means we had no planned talks for the evening and members were invited to bring along something they had been working on, or needed help with, or wanted to show others, or anything really . . .

The meeting was a great success and an ideal opportunity for members to hold more informal discussions on topics of interest. Robin demonstrated his latest acquisition, a digital SLR which he had operating on a small equatorial mount and using PC software FocusAssist and DSLR Shutter.

Chris demonstrated some astronomy podcasts including Chris Lintott's Living Space Online. He also demonstrated software for easily reading lots of blogs, Google Reader.

Members were also asked to provide advice on equipment and setting up and polar aligning telescopes.

All in all and interesting and worthwhile meeting, which I'm sure we'll do again in the future. Thanks to Ian for doing the refreshments this month.